As My Mom Thinketh

As My Mom Thinketh

My mom passed away four years ago. Today would have been her 98th birthday. Seems like a good day for reflecting.

My father dubbed my mom “The Eternal Optimist.” She was a devotee of Norman Vincent Peale and quoted from The Power of Positive Thinking and the Bible in about equal measure. Her cure for all that ails was warm milk, a hot bath, and happy thoughts. As a child, when I went through a phase of not wanting to go to school, she started my days with fresh-baked muffins, Tang, and a quote: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

I wasn’t a rebellious child of the sixties, but I did know how to push my mom’s buttons. All I had to do to frustrate her was refuse to wear her rose-colored glasses. I thought of myself as a realist. Looking back, I can see I was just plain negative.

My mom, at 90, loving on two of her great-grandkids

My mom, at 90, loving on two of her great-grandkids

Someone needs to write a soap opera called “Pollyanna Meets Debbie Downer.” While my mom and I had great talks and frequent laughs, that became the underlying theme of our relationship. She would ask how I was doing, I would complain about whatever was currently not perfect in my life, she would listen for about ninety seconds, and then say, “Well, we all have problems, but it doesn’t pay to dwell on them.”

My mom was widowed at the age of 52. The loss devastated her, but didn’t crush her. Years of fighting to find beauty in the midst of storms served her well. She continued to praise God and serve others. Magnets on her fridge held quotes like “Only one life will soon be past—only what’s done for Christ will last” and “JOY=Jesus, Others, You—in that order.”

My mom was in her eighties when she volunteered at a nursing home, and her only complaint when she entered her 10th decade was that she had to sit down and rest every few hours. At 91, she moved to a retirement home, bought all new furniture, and joined an exercise class. A few months after that move she suffered a stroke. In the nursing home, one side of her body paralyzed, she had nothing but good to say. I often told her it was okay to complain, but she didn’t. In a situation where most of us would be miserable, she was at peace.

What kept her going strong all those years? Two things stand out: Faith in God and a positive outlook on life. I now realize she was neither naïve nor a naturally happy-go-lucky person. She chose to look at the good and downplay the negative.

I’m a slow learner, but I’m trying to embrace Mom’s life philosophy. I have a “Blessings” journal and I try to start my day with thankfulness. I still want to be a realist, but I don’t want to dwell on all that is not perfect in life. Maybe I need a pair of glasses with one rose-colored lens to help me focus less on the negative. Because, as my mom always said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Happy Birthday, Mom. You’re my hero.

Becky Melby About Becky Melby

Wisconsin resident Becky Melby is the author of the Lost Sanctuary Series and a dozen other contemporary fiction titles. Married for 43 years, mother of four, grandmother to fifteen, Becky thrives on writing, reading, camping, rides on the back of a silver Gold Wing, and time with family. Connect with her at her website or Facebook.


  1. I love this: JOY=Jesus, Others, You—in that order.

    Sounds like your mom was an amazing person, and her optimism has still left an impact! I love to hear this! What a nice way to start a Monday.

    Thanks and welcome to POTN, Becky!

  2. Wow! I just had a talk this morning with my oldest son about thinking positive.
    It sounds like your mom was an amazing woman and left a beautiful legacy with you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Thanks, Cherie. So fun to to be part of this group.

    I never thought the day would come that I wanted to be more like my mom. Took a long time to get here!

  4. So sweet, Becky. Your mom had a bad habit of good. 🙂 I love that. And well … your realist side adds humor to your novels! 🙂 Because we all think it … some say it, some don’t. I like hearing truth in a funny way. It helps cushion the blow. 🙂

  5. Becky, Thanks for this reminder from your optimistic mom! I am a card-carrying pessimist, but throughout forty years of marriage to the eternal optimist, God has taught me a few things. Isn’t it just like Him to put those annoyingly positive people in our paths, LOL?

    • You make me smile, Rachael. Yes, it’s just like our God to yoke us to opposites to bring a bit of “rosy” into our negative. But I have to say, Rachael Phillips without the humor born of pessimism would be definitely lacking something! Love you just the way you are, but praying we both continue to learn.

  6. Michelle Coggins says:

    Becky, This reminds me of the last vacation I took with my mom. After waiting in the car while I ran in a drugstore, she commented with sincere concern, “Did you notice that all of the poor people in this town have sunburns?” Then I removed her literally rose colored sun glasses.
    I saw my brother recently for the first time in 7 years. When I opened the door he said he thought he was looking at Mom. Since she died 7 years ago at the age of 85, I’m having to put a little more effort into making that a compliment!
    I’m glad you’re maturing into a woman of optimism before we meet for lunch!

    • You made me laugh, Michelle! Love that your mom had compassion for all those poor sunburned people!

      Take all the good about your mom and assume your brother meant all of that! You don’t look even close to 85! 😉

      So I’ve got about six weeks to totally transform into positive, huh?

  7. Your mom reminds me of my grammy. Thanks for the great reminder to stay positive. Some days are easier than others.

  8. Wow, Becky, what wonderful memories you have to treasure of your mom! I’ve learned over the years that optimism serves us much better than pessimism, but it’s easy to slide back into thinking about the negative side of things. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with us.

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